No unionist can ever accept a tariff border in the Irish Sea

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The Taoiseach said at the weekend that he thinks an exit deal between the UK and EU was possible this coming Friday.

Leo Varadkar also said that “the European Union, including Ireland, doesn’t feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations”.

Yet the Latvian prime minister said yesterday on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC TV that they did form such a basis.

So think for a moment what Mr Varadkar is saying.

He is saying that not only will Ireland reject the latest proposals from the UK premier, but that they do not even form a starting point for further serious discussions.

If that is so, then the only obvious way the UK can assuage Ireland is if it agrees, on top of the huge and troubling concession that has already been made in terms of a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, to a customs/tariff border there.

It is high time that some businesses made clear that that would be a completely unacceptable barrier to internal UK trade, which is far, far bigger than cross border trade.

But even if the business leaders who know as much are too cowed to say so, there is no way that any unionist can under any circumstances accept a tariff border in the Irish Sea.

Once again, Ireland is not only taking the hardest possible line within the EU, it is scolding the UK as it does so and is talking as if it is the central European power.

How can anything even approaching good relations between London and Dublin exist in this scenario? How can unionists accept the NIO interpretation of Stormont talks, which is that Ireland has joint stewardship of the process?

And when is Britain, which helped Ireland in a massive way during the financial crisis, going to apply some pressure?

Ulster Unionist opposition to the PM’s plans are being seized upon by anti unionist, anti leave forces, as if the UUP too want a full Irish Sea border. The UUP do not want that. Every unionist is and will be opposed to internal UK tariffs.